My Smugmug vs Zenfolio comparison-REVISED!!!

topic posted Wed, June 28, 2006 - 1:23 AM by  Kerry
I have both a "pro-level" ($150) Smugmug account & an "unlimited" ($40) Zenfolio account. I did a little comparison over on another forum & have compiled much of those posts here for anyone curious about these two photo sharing services. Enjoy.

I have been with Smugmug over a year now. I signed up for the yearly "unlimited" Zenfolio account ($35 after referral code) almost a month ago after using the (no credit card) trial version for a few days. I started getting interested in it after really using it to browse other peoples galleries, so I wanted to give it a shot & do a real in depth review of the service, not just nose around the site for a bit & then write it off as a Smugmug copy cat (which it isn't) as some have. I wanted to really get my hands dirty & use it just as much as I do my Smugmug site, which means uploading all my content, doing captions, rearranging stuff, setting up different page layouts/styles, and all the other options. What did I find out?

Smugmug has more pro features but Zenfolio looks nicer & has better browsing. I love the way it automatically resizes the main photo to fit peoples browser window & how the thumbnails arent actual links. That means each time you click on a new thumbnail or page number in a gallery, your browsers page position stays put & doesnt make you scroll each time, which I find SUPER annoying in Smugmug. (Yes, I know people can use Lightbox in Smugmug, but it doesnt allow you the same freedom as this with choosing thumbnails & such). Both services offer unlimited uploads & downloads of original files. Bandwidth is unlimited too.

Zenfolio also allows users to make their breadcrumb as deep as they want, which I find to be very useful at times. Smugmug restricts the breadcrumb from going any deeper than 4 times. Everything looks nice & neat on the page in Zenfolio, I like the way you hover your mouse over things to get info such as exif/download links/photo & gallery links/etc instead of having all that info strewn all over the page, the slideshow rocks pretty hard, and my god is this site fast! Most of the time it goes just as fast as I can click, which has a lot to do with the way they prefetch the images. But, I cant tell you how good that feels when you are browsing a bunch of photos in a gallery & it goes that fast & doesnt make you scroll each time you view a new photo or page in a gallery. Its almost like viewing photos with a piece of software on your computer's hard drive! Yes, its THAT fast!!

But, like I said, Smugmug (as of now) has more pro features, more users, an awesome forum ( & great customer service. Although, I will say that everytime I have contacted Zenfolio support, they have replied within the same hour & were always extremely helpful & very nice too. What about prints? Smugmug all the way, no question. But, of course Zenfolio doesnt have a print service yet & they assure everyone its coming soon & will be a very robust system that will satisfy everyone, so we'll have to wait on that one to compare.

Smugmug lets you customize your page with your own html/css code, which can be a good thing or bad thing, depending on how you look at it. Zenfolio has pre-made templates (not just themes), which again can be a good thing or a bad thing. Depends on what you want to do with your page & how savy you are with coding, but I think its safe to say most people arent good with html/css nor do they want to be. But, overall, there is no denying Zenfolio is a VERY "Web 2.0" kind of setup & was built that way from the beginning.

How about user options? Well, thats a tough one. If I were comparing a pro-level Smugmug account to an unlimited Zenolio account, Smugmug would win because they have TONS of options for pros such as setting your own print prices, ability to upload short videos, watermarking, guest passwords for uploading, using your own custom domain name (more on this later), etc. However, if I were comparing Smugmug's other two accounts, Standard ($40) and Power ($60), to Zenfolio's Unlimited account ($40), in my opinion the Zenfolio account takes the cake & is a better deal.

But, back to options. How easy is it to change options with each service? Smugmug's are a little more spread out & you may find yourself looking in 4 different places within your account to accomplish something simple, like just setting up a new gallery with a sub-category, then choosing the options for that gallery in another location & finally adding photos to it. Its not hard, but its not what I would call intuitive either. Thats not the case with Zenfolio. In Zenfolio, literally ALL options, edits, captions, titles, keywords, gallery/group creation, access controls, deleting, descriptions, uploading, re-arranging, etc is done in ONE centralized location for your entire content. And I do mean everything!

This sounds like a bad idea at first because you would think thats too much info on one page, but its not like that at all & is actually very simple. You have a list of all your galleries/groups on the left & you just click on which ever one you want to make edits to, upload to (or whatever), then all the content appears inside the main area in the center with the options on the right. You can go deeper in your breadcrumb from there & make changes to any part of it. Then, you can view it as a guest would to see if its to your liking. They also allow descriptions to any part of your breadcrumb, not just galleries. I really like that a lot because sometimes I want to write little descriptions to a group that may contain a bunch of galleries within them with their own descriptions & so on.

How good do the actual photos themselves look on each site? You be the judge. Here: is a photo hosted on Smugmug. And here: is the same exact photo hosted on Zenfolio at the same size. I notice more noise on the Smugmug photo, especially around the polka dots on her dress going up towards her neck. Also, look into & around her eyes. Noise is more apparent there too in the Smugmug pic. The Zenfolio image just looks more pleasing to my eyes & those image artifacts arent as apparent as they are in the Smugmug photo. My vote goes to Zenfolio here.

So, for now, im keeping both accounts because I like different things about each service. Although, my Zenfolio site may get the pleasure of having my custom domain name point to it as soon as they get their CNAME switch in place (not just url forwarding), which they say is coming in the next week or two. So, for $40 a year, Zenfolio is an awesome deal for what you get & in my opinion, is a better deal than Smugmug's Standard ($40) & Power ($60) accounts.. If you simply must have every pro option imaginable & are good with html/css web design, a $150 Smugmug pro account is exactly what you're looking for.

I hope my little "review" helps. Feel free to browse around each of my sites to make up your own mind. Cheers...Kerry

My Smugmug site:

My Zenfolio site:
posted by:
  • Well, I have switched to Zenfolio for good & am letting my Smugmug account go. Zenfolio came out with a new release a few days ago & that sealed the deal for me. So, my main Smugmug link wont work now because I have set it up to automatically forward people to my Zenfolio site. But, the photo links still work, so you can see the comparison shots I posted above.

    P.S. If you like Zenfolio & want your own account, use my referral code & we both get $5 off! Here is my code: 31U-MZ7-FWF
  • Re: My Smugmug vs Zenfolio comparison-REVISED!!!

    Mon, November 12, 2007 - 5:19 PM
    Just thought you guys should know, Zenfolio just released their Premium account for professionals. Custom print prices, the ability to use their labs or your own for print orders, removing Zenfolio branding from your site, custom coupons, watermarking, etc are just some of the highlights.

    Its $100 per year normally but they are running a special until December 31st for $80 per year for the entire life of your account. I think its a great deal.

    More here:

    P.S. Remember if you sign up to use my referral code for $5 off instantly: 31U-MZ7-FWF
    • Re: My Smugmug vs Zenfolio comparison-REVISED!!!

      Tue, November 13, 2007 - 9:25 AM
      hmm, I'm a smugmugger and have been for a couple years now. I'd hate to try rebuilding everything....

      I will say that some of the aspects of zenfolio do look like they'd be easier to work with than smugmug.

      How fast is the turn around when you send zenfolio an email? the average response time I've had from smugmug is about 2 hours.

      It also appears that zenfolio has a bunch of defaults working for it that will suit a photographer very well. On smugmug, you do have to do some digging, but you can certainly do just about anything to your pages.

      anyone else done both?

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